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Regina Mitchell-St. Julien v. Michael J. Astrue

January 11, 2012

REGINA MITCHELL-ST. JULIEN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sheri Pym United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I.

INTRODUCTION

On December 1, 2010, plaintiff Regina Mitchell-St. Julien filed a complaint against defendant Michael J. Astrue, seeking a review of a denial of Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). Both plaintiff and defendant have consented to proceed for all purposes before the assigned Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). The parties' briefing is now complete, and the court deems the matter suitable for adjudication without oral argument.

A single issue is presented for decision here: whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") properly considered the evidence of a medically determinable severe mental impairment. Joint Stipulation ("JS") at 5-14, 14-16, 17.

Having carefully studied, inter alia, the parties' Joint Stipulation and the Administrative Record ("AR"), the court concludes that, as detailed herein, there is substantial evidence in the record, taken as whole, to support the ALJ's decision. First, the ALJ properly determined that plaintiff does not suffer from a severe mental impairment. And second, the ALJ properly disregarded the treating physician's opinion regarding plaintiff's mental impairment, as such opinion was based on plaintiff's subjective complaints and not supported by the objective medical evidence. Therefore, the court affirms the Commissioner's decision denying benefits.

II.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, who was thirty-nine years old on the date of her February 8, 2007 administrative hearing, has a high school degree and some college education. See AR at 370, 373-74. Plaintiff has no past relevant work. Id. at 19, 408.

On September 26, 2005, plaintiff filed applications for DIB and SSI, alleging that she has been disabled since April 1, 1990 due to multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia. See AR at 12, 42, 55-58. Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration, after which she filed a request for a hearing. Id. at 12, 38, 39, 40, 42-46, 47, 49-54.

On February 8, 2007, plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified at a hearing before the ALJ. AR at 372-83, 385. The ALJ also heard testimony from Alan E. Cummings, a vocational expert ("VE"). Id. at 383-84. On February 21, 2007, the ALJ denied plaintiff's request for benefits. Id. at 12-21.

Applying the well-known five-step sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found, at step one, that plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 7, 2005. AR at 15.

At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff suffers from severe impairments consisting of "headaches, ischemia and trace tricuspid regurgitation." AR at 15 (emphasis omitted).

At step three, the ALJ determined the evidence does not demonstrate that plaintiff's impairments, either individually or in combination, meet or medically equal the severity of any listing set forth in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix

1. AR at 15.

The ALJ then assessed plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC") and*fn1 determined that she can perform medium work with avoidance of ...


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